World’s Smallest Storage Unit Consists of 12 Atoms, Stores One Bit of Information

Nowadays, gadgets have been storing information in smaller spaces and condensing the information to compensate for a lack of circuit board space. Now, we finally have a solution that might make even the smallest smartphone store very huge volumes of data in a space as tiny as your fingernail. I’m not talking about something like a 16 GB microSD card. I’m talking about the potential for a 256 GB storage capacity in roughly the same space as the aforementioned card.Currently, the smallest storage units measure around 32 nanometers, sometimes less. Still, that’s enormous compared to what I’m about to present to you: A transistor/storage unit that takes up a maximum of 3 by 1 nanometers, or the area occupied by 12 measly atoms. To get an idea of how small 32 nanometers is, have a look at a single hair. That, in itself, measures approximately 10 thousand nanometers. Now, imagine something several thousand times smaller than this. There’s your atomic transistor!

This magnetic data storage unit can inflate hard drive capacity significantly. The only problem is cost. As the hard drives become more mainstream, they will be easier to manufacture, driving the price down. Note that the unit can store one bit. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read this. This means that one byte would occupy 96 atoms, or roughly 48 square nanometers, of space – a tiny speck compared to the gigantic blobs we currently use to store our information.

Just how reliable is it? I suppose that having smaller storage units would make a drive a bit more delicate, but that can be compensated with certain measures. First of all, the drive would have to be a perfect vacuum, so that no other matter can interfere with the I/O process. To understand what a drive needs, you really need to read up on how it works.

We can thank IBM Research for coming up with this little nut. Now, let’s hope that we can get smaller data storage onto a full-fledged hard drive.